Posted by Kelly M on November 24, 2003 at 17:39:11:
In Reply to: baby sleeping problems posted by Michelle Holland on November 24, 2003 at 17:00:40:
Typical sleep at this age
By now your toddler should be sleeping about 10 to 12 hours at night and taking a two-hour afternoon nap every day. Some children will hold onto two shorter daily naps until their second birthday, though — if yours is one of them, don't fight it.
How you can help your child settle and sleep
At this age, these are some of the best things you can do to make sure your can settle and sleep through the night:
> Help him to fall asleep on his own.
If you want your child to sleep through the night without calling for you, he should now be drifting off on his own at night without being rocked, breastfed, or otherwise lulled to sleep. If he learns to depend on any of these external cues, he won't be able to fall back to sleep during the night when he wakes up and they're not there. Think of it this way, says sleep expert Richard Ferber: You fall asleep with your head on a pillow, only to wake up in the middle of the night and find the pillow gone. You'd probably be concerned about the pillow's absence and look for it, rousing from your sleepy state. Similarly, if your child falls asleep every night listening to a particular CD, he'll wonder what happened when he wakes at night and doesn't hear the music. If he's upset, he won't be able to drop off again easily. To help prevent this, try to get him into bed when he's sleepy but still awake, so he can fall asleep by himself.
> Offer him acceptable choices at bedtime.
These days your toddler is beginning to test the limits of his new-found independence, wanting to assert control over the world around him. To curtail bedtime power struggles, let your child make choices whenever possible during his bedtime routine — from which bedtime story he wants to hear to which pair of pyjamas he'd like to wear. The trick is to offer only two or three options and to make sure you're happy with every choice. For example, don't ask, "Do you want to go to bed now?" He could very well say no, which isn't acceptable. Instead, try, "Do you want to go to bed now or in five minutes?" He still gets to make the choice, but you win no matter which option he picks.
This age group has its own particular challenge: sometime between 18 and 24 months, many children start climbing out of their cot, potentially putting themselves in danger (falling out of a cot can be painful) and often turning bedtime into a prolonged ordeal. Unfortunately, just because your toddler can get out of his cot doesn't mean he's ready for a big bed, although our article on making the transition from cot to bed can help you to find out when he's likely to be. In the meantime, try to keep him safe and stationary with these tips from a sleep expert:
> Lower the mattress: If you move the cot mattress to its lowest position, you may be able to physically prevent your child from getting out. This probably won't work when he gets bigger, though.
> Empty the cot: Your child may be using toys or cot bumpers as levers to help him get out. If you remove them, he may stay put a little longer.
> Don't make jumping out worth his while: If your child jumps out of his cot and you react by giving him lots of attention or letting him get in bed with you, he'll keep doing it. Instead, stay calm and neutral, firmly tell him not to climb out, and put him right back in his cot. He'll get the idea pretty quickly.
> Keep watch: Nip his escapades in the bud by standing where you can see him in his cot — but he can't see you. If he tries to get out, immediately tell him not to. After you've done this a few times, he'll probably learn to stay put.
> Set up a safe environment: If you can't keep your child from jumping out, you can at least make sure he stays safe. Place pillows and other padding on the floor around his cot and on nearby toy chests, cupboards, and other objects that could cause a hard knock. If he absolutely won't stop climbing, you can always lower the side of the cot and leave a stool nearby. At least then you won't have to worry about him falling and hurting himself. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em...
Approaches to sleep problems
Two of the most common sleep problems for toddlers of all ages are difficulty falling asleep and frequent night wakings. What can you do when your child keeps waking up at night — and you know he's old enough to sleep all the way through? If you want him to sleep through the night without calling for you, the main thing is to make sure he learns how to settle himself back down — by finding his thumb, cuddling a transitional object, or some other way. Most of the experts agree that you should try to avoid letting your child become dependent on such external conditions as music, lighting, and feeding to fall asleep; if he does, he'll need the same things every time he wakes up at night before he can drop off again.
If your child won't sleep through the night, there are a variety of approaches you can try.
> Approach 1
As long as you're putting your child to sleep on his own at bedtime, it's all right to do what you think will help him go back to sleep, such as rocking him or pacing the floor until he falls asleep. If his bedtime routine is consistent, night waking should diminish in a few weeks. If this doesn't work, try a checking routine: if your child is crying, go back into his room. Pat him on the back and tell him that everything is okay, but that it's time to go to sleep. Don't pick him up or cuddle him; be gentle but firm. Leave. Wait about five minutes, then check again. Do this repeatedly until he falls asleep, extending the time between each visit.
> Approach 2
Help your child make appropriate bedtime associations by creating a consistent bedtime routine. Make sure your child falls asleep alone — without you, a dummy, or a bottle. While they work in the short term, these methods can teach your child to depend on being put to sleep, rather than falling asleep on his own. If he won't stay asleep, try letting him cry for progressively longer intervals of time, starting at five minutes, increasing to 10, and so on. Between intervals, you can spend about two to three minutes with your child, reassuring him by talking to him and possibly patting him on the back. Don't pick him up or rock him.
> Approach 3
Watch the clock to see when your child shows signs of sleepiness — and make that time his regular bedtime. Plan a quiet bedtime routine and discuss it with him so he understands what you'll be doing, when, and why. Whatever you decide to do, your routine should end with your child quiet and awake in his cot so he can settle himself to sleep. If your child wakes in the night, don't pick him up or bring him to your room. He needs to learn to put himself back to sleep, even if it means crying a bit first. Comfort him for a short time, and continue to return briefly every five to 10 minutes until he falls asleep.
> Approach 4
You can help your child with self-comforting techniques by giving him a stuffed animal or blanket and helping him find his thumb. Follow a bedtime ritual that is supportive and comforting. If he begins crying in the night, break into your child's sleep rhythm by waking him up before your bedtime. Love and cuddle him, feed him if necessary, and put him down again, reassuring him that you're there.
> Approach 5
Try moving your child's afternoon nap to an earlier time and cutting it shorter if necessary. Stick to your bedtime ritual. Other ways to help your child get to sleep are to cuddle up with him, pretend to be asleep yourself, or take a businesslike, adult-in-charge approach: prepare for bed and go about your own daily routine. Eventually he'll fall asleep right in the middle of watching you. If he wakes in the night, don't let your child cry it out; instead, try to find the source of his wakefulness (such as a full nappy, hunger, upset routines during the day, a stuffy nose, or even irritating pyjamas). Increase his daytime attachment to you and let dad play the role of nighttime co-comforter so both parents can help their child fall back to sleep. If your child has been a consistent sleeper but is going through a big development spurt, expect him to wake up more often at night. When this happens, try to get him back to sleep without taking him out of his cot. Instead, pat his back, talk to him soothingly, and sing. You can also consider taking him into your own bed.
There is no "right" way to encourage your child to settle and sleep through the night. You need to choose an approach that will work for you and your family.